As Ash Grove, Dallas Settle Cement Suit, Clean-Air Group Shouts, "Sweetheart Deal!"

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It's been close to two years since we last looked at Ash Grove's federal lawsuit, filed in the fall of '08, in which the cement-maker whined that Dallas's refusal to buy its dirty, wet-kiln-made concrete was a violation of the state's competitive bidding laws. Dallas, claiming its thanks-but-no-thanks was due to a cleaner-air, "green cement" initiative launched in '07, was but one of several municipalities and local entities that swore off Ash Grove's Midlothian-made cement. Also named were Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas County Schools, Tarrant County and Plano, which was dismissed from the initial litigation and named in a later complaint.

Well, Dallas City Hall just sent word: Dallas and Arlington -- the only two parties who kept fighting Ash Grove in federal court -- have negotiated a proposed settlement that will bring the litigation to a wrap. Says the release sent moments ago, the deal would require Ash Grove "to significantly reduce its release of harmful pollutants on all the cement it makes year-round in North Texas." Specifically, says the release:
The proposed settlement would:

(1)  Require Ash Grove to reduce its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by *more than 10%* for *all* of the cement it manufactures in North Texas *year-round*. (Not just for the cement it makes for city projects and not just during ozone season);
(2)   Require *all* North Texas cement manufacturers to exceed state NOx emissions standards by a set percentage to be eligible for a preference on city projects;
(3)  Require all cement manufacturers to be in compliance with all state and federal pollution laws to be eligible for a preference on city projects.
Council Transportation and Environment Committee chair Linda Koop insists it's a good deal: "The proposed policies will do more to reduce pollution from the cement kilns than the current policy by requiring Ash Grove to lower their emissions rate for all cement produced in the region."

But Downwinders at Risk calls it a "stunning reversal" by the city in advance of a council vote scheduled for February 23 that will essentially end the litigation. Says director Jim Schermbeck, "This is a sweetheart deal for Ash Grove that comes at the expense of Dallas-Ft. Worth residents who want to breathe cleaner air. Whether they want to admit it or not, the cities are further enabling Ash Grove to continue to run the dirtiest cement operation in Texas."
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Jim Schermbeck
Jim Schermbeck

Jay D - According to at least one of the attorneys representing one of the cities, the judge was about to throw the case out of federal court. The federal "discrimination" claims are the most ridiculous of the whole thing. This settlement is a product of a second round of mediation. Nothing would have prevented Ash Grove from walking across the street and filing it all over again in state court, but you take it one step at a time.

And what really stinks is that the City consulted all kinds of 3rd parties about the settlement, including TCEQ, which was against the policy from the very start, but not with us and the other groups that actually helped write and pass the policy. We've already suggested some ways to improve it so that it doesn't institutionalize support for obsolete wet kilns for all eternity, but this is on a fast track.

I truly don't know whether this is Leppert trying to establish that he's not anti-business as he gets ready to run for the Senate, or Mary Suhm's dumping another Laura Miller environmental initiative that she could care less about. But it seems like this Council really is in full retreat on all environmental fronts.

Jay D
Jay D

Thanks for the reply.

raymond crawford
raymond crawford

Many of our civic leaders could care less about our air and water and will do anything for a fast buck without having to think about it. Whores.

Dallas is Ash Grove's Bitch
Dallas is Ash Grove's Bitch

LOL. They didn't agree to reduce anything. It's a 10% reduction based on what? What Ash Grove used to produce without emission controls, and while running year 'round. Well guess what, with the economy like this the plant is shut down months at a time anyway so the total for the year is a total gimme. And when they do run, they can run SNCR at a fraction of what they used to and get that 10% no sweat and save money at the same time. Ash Grove totally reamed you Dallas - hope you enjoyed it as much as they did!

Jim Schermbeck
Jim Schermbeck

As of today, no one at either Dallas or Arlington City Halls can tell you how many tons of air pollution this settlement agreement actually reduces. They have no idea. On the other hand, the current green cement policy is at least partially responsible for TXI's decision to shut down its old wet kilns. That's about a 5000 tons per year decrease in air pollution. If the city is getting any less than that from Ash Grove, it's selling its citizens short.

The settlement requires no new pollution controls at Ash Grove and gives the company no incentives to ever upgrade to the efficiency of the newer dry kilns literally across the street in Midlothian. Moreover, this was only announced Tuesday. It's schedule for a vote next Wednesday. City Hall is closed for two of those week days in between. What's the rush? Why not allow for more citizen input. Talk to the groups the City worked with to pass the original policy.

For a complete response from Downwinders, see these two posts on our website:http://downwindersatrisk.org/_...

http://downwindersatrisk.org/_...

Jay D
Jay D

Jim, was the lawsuit winnable for Dallas and Arlington? Personally, I wish the TCEQ was more than a just a place for Governor Big Hair to find cushy jobs for his minions, but on the issues was the lawsuit defensible.....especially for a city that is basically broke (but owns a really, really nice bridge and a flashy hotel).

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